Do you love the smell of fresh-brewed coffee in the morning? If so, you're definitely not alone. In fact, coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world. In 2019, 63% of adult Americans drank coffee every day.
And there are plenty of ways to enjoy it! Different cultures and peoples have developed different ways to enjoy coffee throughout time, to the point it can be difficult to decide which type of coffee machine is right for you.
In this post, we'll take a look at the different types of coffee makers and see how they work. We'll also recommend grind levels and coffee roasts for each type of coffee maker.
So whether you're a beginner or an expert, you're sure to find something useful here!
Let’s get started!
At a glance…
Drip coffee makers are the most popular type of coffee maker in America. They work by dripping hot water over ground coffee beans. The coffee is brewed as the water passes through the coffee grounds and then a paper or metal mesh filter, falling into a pot or carafe below.
Drip coffee machines are extremely popular due to their low price and convenience. Most can easily prepare coffee for 1 to 4 coffee drinkers; hence they are also known as 4-cup coffee makers.
Although automatic drip coffee makers have a reputation for being 'cheap' coffee, there are Specialty Coffee Association (CSA) certified drip coffee makers that can cost several hundreds of dollars.
Some models even have a built-in grinder for an added cost. This allows you to use freshly ground coffee beans to ensure the best-tasting coffee.
What to look for in an automatic drip coffee maker:
Light to medium roasts.
Medium coarse to Medium fine.
Are you looking to buy an automatic drip coffee maker? Then check our best 4 cup coffee maker post!
Espresso machines are a type of coffee maker that uses pressure to force hot water through finely-ground coffee beans, resulting in the thick and rich coffee drink we all know as espresso.
Espresso machines are one of the most coveted types of coffee makers, as they are necessary to prepare beloved specialty drinks like lattes and cappuccinos.
There are several types of espresso machines:
Manual espresso machines, require you to pull a lever to extract the espresso shot. Some manual espresso machines are electric and heat and push water into a boiler, whereas other manual machines require you to separately heat the water as they are not electric. These are amongst the hardest coffee makers to master - you will need to dose, grind, tamp, time, and apply constant pressure for that perfect espresso shot. If you are skillful, the results can be amazing.
Semi-automatic espresso machines, which have a pump that does most of the work for you, but still require some manual input. You will still need to add the correct coffee dosage and tamp it into a portafilter, and manually start and stop the shot extraction.
Automatic espresso machines, which do most of the work for you! Usually, the dosing will be done for you, but you will need to tamp the coffee into the portafilter and attach it to the brew head. Most automatic espresso machines come with a milk wand or automatic milk-steaming system.
Super automatic espresso machines, which grind, dose, tamp and brew the espresso for you. They also automatically steam the milk for you. Some machines even pour the espresso, milk, and foam into your cup, and all you have to do is press a few buttons!
Note - not all espresso machines fit neatly within the above categories. For example, one of my favorites is the Breville Oracle, which is considered a super automatic espresso machine but uses a portafilter. This means you have to transfer the portafilter to the brew unit and separately steam the milk.
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What to look for in an espresso machine:
Medium to dark roasts make the best espresso beans. For most super automatic machines, avoid oily dark roasts or they may clog up your machine.
Pod coffee machines are another type of coffee maker that has become increasingly popular in recent years. Rather than using loose ground coffee, pod machines such as the Keurig coffee maker use pre-packaged coffee pods (or K-Cups) that contain a predetermined amount of coffee.
The most popular types of pod machines are the Keurig and Nespresso.
Keurig machines let hot water gently flow through the capsule, resulting in something similar to drip coffee.
Nespresso machines instead use high-pressure water, which results in a drink similar to an espresso.
To use a pod machine, you simply insert the pod into the machine and press start - no grinding or measuring required! These machines are very easy to use and require almost no maintenance.
The downside to pod machines is that they can be more expensive to operate in the long run, as you have to purchase pre-packaged coffee pods. Also, your coffee will never taste as good as other methods, given that you're not using fresh coffee beans.
Also, the environmental impact of these types of coffee makers is higher as the used pods require energy to manufacture, package and transport, and when used, often end up in landfills, as they are difficult to recycle.
Using reusable pods is a good way to mitigate these environmental implications, and they will allow you to use freshly ground coffee!
What to look for in a pod coffee maker:
N/A. Keurig and Nespresso pods encompass the full roast range from light to dark.
N/A. You won't be grinding with these ones.
Are you looking to buy a Nespresso? Then check our Best Nespresso Machines Post!
Pour-over coffee makers are a type of manual coffee maker that involve you grinding fresh coffee beans, figuring out your ideal coffee-to-water ratio, heating up water (ideally using a gooseneck kettle for more control), slowly putting some water over the grounds to allow the coffee to bloom (release CO2).
Then slowly adding more water in spiral patterns while you admire the coffee slowly dripping towards the bottom of your cup (or coffeemaker).
As you can see, pour-over coffee makers require many steps, but this is also what makes them appealing to some people. These steps can become part of your morning ritual, as you quietly and mindfully repeat these steps each morning.
Brewing coffee with pour-overs is a bit of a zen experience if you ask me. Plus it is the best method to make a caffe misto at home because you can easily control the strength of your coffee before adding your steamed milk on top!
As you may have guessed, pour-over coffee makers give you full control, from the beans you select and the grind size, to the amount and water temperature. This makes pour-over coffee makers more suitable for the advanced user (but it's not hard to learn, this is not rocket science!)
Pour-over coffee makers come in many different shapes and sizes. The most common types are cone-shaped or flat bottomed.
In terms of flavors, pour-over coffee maker coffee tends to have complex light and clean flavors, which are usually overshadowed by darker roasts used in other coffee brewing methods.
What to look for in a pour-over coffee maker:
Light to medium.
Medium coarse to medium fine. Some tinkering may be needed for your specific pour-over coffee maker and filter.
Related Post: The Best Automatic Pour Over Coffee Maker + 7 Contenders
The French press is a manual coffee maker that uses immersion brewing. This means the coffee grounds are soaked in hot water for a set amount of time, usually 3 to 5 minutes. This extracts flavors from the beans that regular drip machines can't get.
The French Press also uses metal filters, which means some of the oils of the coffee will remain in your drink. This results in a bolder flavor.
The French Press is one of the cheapest and most forgiving types of coffee makers. They work great with most roast levels.
To make a French Press, you put coarsely ground coffee into the bottom carafe, pour in hot water (not boiling), give it a stir, wait a few minutes for the grounds to settle, and then use the plunger to push all the grounds to the bottom of the carafe.
What to look for in a French press:
Pro Tip: a French Press can be used to froth milk. Simply add hot milk, and bring the plunger up and down repeatedly until you get the desired texture. Just make sure to wash your French Press really well afterward.
Most roasts work great. Find the one you like the most!
The Moka Pot is a stovetop coffee maker that uses pressure to extract flavors from the coffee. This makes it similar to an espresso machine, but much cheaper and easier to use.
There are many different types of Moka Pots, but they all work similarly. You put water in the bottom pot, add coffee grounds to the middle filter, and screw on the top pot. The water is heated until it boils and creates pressure which forces the hot water up through the coffee grounds and into the top pot where it's then dispensed.
In terms of flavors, Moka Pot coffee is a bold coffee drink, akin to espresso, but not quite, as espresso requires much higher pressures. But if you want that latte or iced latte but do not have an expensive espresso machine, the Moka Pot is a good alternative.
Moka pots are extremely durable, are very easy to use, and are portable. This makes them the ideal coffee maker for camping.
What to look for in a Moka pot:
Medium to dark roasts.
A percolator is a type of coffee maker that uses gravity to push the hot water through the coffee grounds. The water is heated in the bottom pot. As it evaporates, the steam passes up through the coffee grounds via a tube into a top pot where it condenses and then drips onto the coffee grounds.
The water goes through the grounds and falls back into the bottom. This cycle is repeated until you remove the percolator from the heat.
Percolators are not as popular as they used to be, but they still have their fans. Some people prefer the taste of coffee made in a percolator, as they produce a strong and hot cup of joe.
What to look for in a percolator:
Medium to dark roasts.
The siphon coffee maker, also known as the vacuum coffee maker, is a bit of an oddity. It's not as common as the other types of coffee makers on this list, but it's still used by some people.
The siphon coffee maker works via...wait for it...vacuum pressure!
The bottom chamber is filled with water and placed on a heat source. The water is heated until it boils and creates steam. This steam then forces the water up into the upper chamber via a hollow tube where the coffee grounds are contained.
Once all the water has been forced into the upper chamber, the heat is removed and the resulting vacuum pulls (well, loss of pressure technically, remember PV=nRT? I may be too much of a geek...) the now brewed coffee back down into the lower chamber where it can be served.
Also, siphon coffee makers can look like something right out of a laboratory. If you have one at home it will certainly be a conversation topic.
Siphon coffee tastes like a cross between French press and drip coffee. The immersion results in a rich flavor, but it's not as full-bodied as the former, and not as light as the latter. It is also considered 'cleaner' due to its finer filter which means less residue.
What to look for in a siphon coffee maker:
Medium to dark roasts.
Cold brew coffee is made by steeping extra coarse coffee grounds in cold water for an extended period of time, usually for 12 to 24 hours. The result is a concentrate that can be diluted with water or milk and served over ice.
Cold brew coffee has become increasingly popular in recent years as people have become more adventurous with their coffee choices.
There are two types of cold brew coffee makers: immersion and drip. Immersion cold brew coffee makers work by placing the coffee grounds in a container and adding cold water. The container is then placed in the fridge for 12-24 hours to allow the brewing process to take place.
Drip cold brew coffee makers work by dripping cold water over the coffee grounds contained in a filter.
Cold brew coffee is famous for its low acidity full-bodied coffee, even if you use light roast beans.
Also, adding some cold brew concentrate onto some cold water and ice makes for a most satisfying iced coffee on a hot summer day.
What to look for in a cold brew coffee maker:
A phin is a Vietnamese coffee filter that is used to brew a single cup of coffee. Phins consist of a metal filter, a metal perforated drip plate, often attached to a small pot that acts as the brewing chamber, and a lid.
The coffee grounds are placed in the basket (which is on top of the perforated dip plate), and on top of the grounds, you place the metal filter. Hot water is poured over the filter. The resulting brew drips into a drinking cup often containing condensed milk. Ice is often added to make this a sumptuous icy coffee drink.
Phins can be made of stainless steel, aluminum, or brass. They usually have a handle on the side so that they can be easily removed from the cup once brewing is complete. Phins come in many different sizes, but most are designed to brew one small cup of coffee at a time.
They are cheap and durable, and fit pretty much anywhere, making them highly portable.
The resulting brew, known as Vietnamese coffee, is thick and intense. The condensed milk cuts the bitterness resulting in an amazing drink.
There's also a thing called Vietnamese egg coffee. Yes, it contains real eggs. Check our post to learn more about it!
What to look for in a phin coffee maker:
Dark roasts, often involving Robusta beans!
Medium to medium coarse.
A cezve is a small pot designed specifically for brewing Turkish coffee. Also known as ibrik, it is traditionally made of brass or copper, has a long handle, and a spout for pouring the coffee.
The coffee grounds are placed in the cezve pot with water and sugar (if desired) and then brought to a boil. Once boiling, the cezve is removed from the heat and allowed to settle for a few minutes before being served. This allows the grounds to settle at the bottom of the cup.
And yes, there is no filtering here - that's why Turkish coffee requires one of the finest coffee grinds - almost like flour.
Turkish coffee is served in demitasses like espresso. The resulting beverage is a thick intense coffee drink that should be slowly sipped.
What to look for in a cezve coffee maker:
Light to medium roast.
Extra fine - almost like flour!
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. It depends on your preferences and needs. So in this case, ask yourself what is your favorite type of coffee, and on that basis, choose the appropriate type of coffee maker. That would be the best coffee maker for you!
The main difference between a French press and a drip coffee maker is that a French press is a type of coffee maker that utilizes immersion brewing. The grounds are steeped in hot water for a period of time, after which the plunger is pressed to filter the coffee. In contrast, a drip coffee maker brews coffee by dripping hot water over the grounds that are placed in a paper or metal filter. French press coffee makers typically produce a richer and more full-bodied cup of coffee. Check our post to find out more differences between French press vs drip coffee.
Espresso machines are expensive because they require a high level of pressure to brew the coffee, and this is typically done with a pump. In addition, espresso machines also require a boiler to heat the water to brewing temperature. These two components add to the cost of an espresso machine.
If you've made it this far then you are well on your way to becoming a coffee expert!
There are many types of coffee makers around the world, and each has its own unique benefits and drawbacks.
We hope this guide helps you choose the best coffee maker for your needs!
And let us know in the comments below what your favorite type of coffee maker is!